The Academy played host to two very eminent speakers in both the Foundation Course and the Phase IV last week: we had Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Pema Khandu and the Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale. The frank and candid conversations between them and the officers really helped everyone in understanding the geopolitics of the northeastern region, especially in the context of the Look East Policy, India’s equations and issues with China and the practical steps that could be taken to give greater teeth to our Look East Policy.
First, some interesting facts. Pema Khandu is perhaps the youngest CM of the country, and Vijay Gokhale is the seniormost civil servant – belonging to the 1981 batch. Although the two did not have an occasion to meet, it was interesting to note their perceptions and world views. While Vijay Gokhale gave us a broad overview of India and the world, CM Khandu spoke about the reality on the ground, the ‘here and now challenge’ from China on the 1500 km long border with ‘Tibet China’ rather than China – he urges a change in our nomenclature to describe the region.
The Chief Minister also felt that Arunachal was perhaps the finest example of integration with India with every tribe retaining its identity and dialect yet also adopting Hindi as the medium of communication. He put it so well: ‘the left and right of the grammar may be different but the manning was conveyed quite clearly’. He convincingly spoke of the need to have a separate cadre for Arunachal Pradesh to ensure institutional memory besides giving an equal and fair opportunity to officers who were born and educated in Arunachal to opt for the state cadre. Under the current dispensation, even officers domiciled in Arunachal were part of AGMUT cade and hardly got the opportunity to serve in the state. Given the fact that in geographical terms, it is one of the largest states in the country – with an area bigger than Bihar, the highest hydro reserve in the country and the longest border with Tibet China – there is merit in the argument. Another point which made a lot of sense was the need to have at least two time zones in the country – for the entire Eastern region, the 9:30 AM-5.30 PM schedule did not make ecological sense. Even in Kolkata, so many daylight hours are lost because from mid-November to mid-February, it is dark from 5 pm onwards and in the case of Arunachal, the dusk sets in even earlier. For a region where the sun rises at 3.30 AM in summers, the best part of the morning is lost if schools and institutions follow the IST. If the US can afford four time zones, we can surely do with two time zones at least!
Dr. Sanjeev Chopra is the Director of LBSNAA and Honorary Curator, Valley of Words: Literature and Arts Festival, Dehradun.